“Love Happens” but not much in this film
Where is Senator Joe Wilson when you need him? His ignominious shout out during Pres. Obama’s speech last week would have been more accurately aimed at the marketing suits behind “Love Happens.” Those hoping for sparks, the kind brazenly portended in the film’s trailers, between handsome, square-jawed Aaron Eckhart and still-sexy Jennifer Aniston will be sorely disappointed.
“Love Happens” is more about catharsis than chemistry. It’s not a terrible film, but like skydiving lessons, you’d better know what you’re getting into beforehand.
Eckhart is Burke Ryan, a PhD and the best-selling author of “A-Okay,” a self-help book about coming to grips with the loss of a loved one. He knows from what he writes, having lost his wife three years earlier, a fact he all too often mentions during his seminars. But something’s amiss. There’s a mystery in his past that is alluded to by his father-in-law (Martin Sheen), who busts into one of Burke’s workshops at a Seattle Hyatt. The point of the movie is how jaded, alluring florist Eloise (Aniston-playing basically the same character she has for years) helps Burke come to terms with his past.
Though filled with clichés from the meet-cute, to the awkward first date, to the oddball sidekicks, etc., the film is not without its heart tugging moments. Veteran character actor John Carroll Lynch is particularly effective as a dad trying to cope with the loss of his young son. Talented Dan Fogler as Burke’s agent doesn’t succumb to the role’s typical stereotypes.
Much of Burke’s advice and techniques are contrived, but anyone who has watched Dr. Phil or participated in a seminar that involved hot coal walking will cop to at least a measure of self-improvement reality.
Nothing happens here that would lead one to remotely categorize the film as a “romantic comedy,” which appears to be a dying breed in Hollywood. Recent offerings prove this. From “(500) Days of Summer,” a good film about people falling out of love, to “All About Steve,” which offers quirkiness but no romance, to the preposterously silly “The Proposal” and the dreadfully superficial “The Ugly Truth,” the authentic romantic comedy seems to have taken a hiatus.
If “Love Happens” is a romantic comedy, then somewhere a politician has some pork he wants to sell you.
Rated PG-13 for some language including sexual references and religious profanities.